Mike North's odyssey from sports talk radio station 670 The Score has been, if nothing else, an interesting one. North's contract wasn't renewed at The Score, partially because of a dispute over a potential pay cut and the Score's apparent desire to move North out of the morning show, where he was the star attraction. Rather than settle their differences, the two sides walked, leaving North momentarily without a paying gig.
Most fired radio personalities, if they're popular, usually end up with a competitor. North did something entirely different. He sold a morning talk program -- basically a radio show, but in front of a TV -- to Comcast Sports Net. Then, with that show established, North branched out and helped build Chicago Sports Webio, a streaming online radio site with local personalities. Backed by investor David Hernandez, the site has been running ubiquitous ads on Comcast and other networks and hiring talent away from other radio stations and newspapers in town.
It's a good idea, a streaming sports talk network, and more voices are always a good thing, but here's the problem: money. It will take time before the listener base expands enough to pay for the station's bandwith costs and so on. But the experiment might not have a chance to play out: One of Hernandez's other companies was searched by the FBI last week, and Hernandez fired North and other executives from the company's leadership. In the meantime, anchor Chet Coppack says one of his payroll checks bounced, and the other one hasn't been delivered yet. Taken together, it all sounds pretty ominous.
It would be a shame. For all of his goofiness, North and Hernandez had a good business idea here, running a low-overhead startup with established local talent. It could theoretically work. That it might implode so quickly is not just unfortunate for listeners, small as CSW's audience may still be. It's also an argument for the stability of old media, what little of it actually remains.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.